By Felicity Clarke, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Summer in London has had a Brazilian flavor this year with the Southbank Centre’s “Festival Brazil”. Sponsored by HSBC, the festival has brought leading Brazilian artists, musicians and writers to Britain in a three month feast of exhibitions and events celebrating the country’s culture which closes on September 5th.
As well as bringing the Morrinho Project to London to create a new miniature favela together with local young people on the side of the Thames, the festival’s art program features ‘The Edges of the World’, a major exhibition by Carioca artist Ernesto Neto who has transformed the Hayward Gallery space with his sensuous abstract sculpture installations. Until August 30th the outside terraces of Royal Festival Hall are decorated by Gringo Cardia, renowned set designer for Cirque do Soleil, while São Paulo comic book artists Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá have collaborated with artists and local young people to create a comic strip wall documenting the festival in Queen Elizabeth Hall.
In a program that has already seen performances from Afroreggae, Gilberto Gil and Tom Zé, the showcase of Brazil’s diverse musical landscape continues this weekend with two free events on Saturday August 28th at the Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall. From 3PM the finale of three weeks of intensive workshops takes place with Carioca hip hop artist MC Marechal, British rapper Akala and young people from Hackney Youth Offending Team. Working with spoken word, dance and the socially engaged influences of British and Brazilian hip hop, the performances on Saturday promise to demonstrate the exciting possibilities of expression in the genre.
In the evening the focus turns to samba with a Rio Carnival Party. London-based Paraiso School of Samba are set to fill the ballroom floor, while the party features performances from samba singer Wantuir Tavares and percussion led by award-winning baterista Mestre Esteves.
The festival concludes with a series of documentary film screenings which explore the development, influence and impact of Brazilian musical figures, including the 2010 films “Beyond Ipanema – Brazilian Waves in Global Music” which looks at the international influence of Brazilian music and “Dzi Croquettes”, a documentary about the theater group who with irony and intelligence confronted the Brazilian dictatorship in the 1970s.
As a diverse showcase of Brazilian culture, Festival Brazil has the aim to celebrate the vibrant work coming out of the country, as Southbank Centre’s Tamsin Ace explains; “People have a particular idea of Brazil and we have tried not to think too much about that but show the variety of exciting work being made in Brazil”.
For Carioca architect João Wrobel who has lived in London for the last twenty years, the festival is a welcome exploration of the variety of Brazilian culture. “It’s great to have something different from the traditional samba and forró nights. It’s a more complete look at Brazilian culture”.
For more information on Festival Brazil visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk